Sunday, January 11, 2015

Heavy Metal Heat

Night Demon – Curse Of The Damned

Century Media Records – 2015

Muthas, how many times have you loved a band’s first release, particularly an EP, only to have their subsequent full length follow-up completely suck?  You know the story - a big label gets ahold of the band and grinds all the sharp edges off their previously gritty sound, or the band doesn’t have much good material beyond what they put on the EP.  That brings us to the first full length LP by Night Demon and this time nobody’s going to disappointed!  Curse Of The Damned kicks all sorts of ass and picks right up where the EP left off!  No letdown here! No sir, no way!

If you’re not familiar with Night Demon just imagine the best NWOBHM band playing melodic, hooky Metal with loads of conviction and sincerity.  This isn’t some cynical ploy by some corporation to make a few bucks based on the resurgence of Traditional Metal.  Rather, it’s the product of a band completely dedicated to the DIY ethos of the NWOBHM.  These guys mean it and live it like few bands do anymore.  They are tireless roaddogs and seem willing to play anywhere, anytime no matter how big or small the crowds are.  From European festivals to basement parties in an old house, these guys are out there laying it down.  That’s as Metal as it gets!  But how's the damn LP sound you ask?  Well read on my friend.

The album is crammed full of killer speedballs like “Screams In The Night,” "Run For Your Life," and “Full Speed Ahead,” but also features a couple of longer songs such as “The Howling Man” and “Save Me Now.”  Both of those tracks are excellent but “The Howling Man” is the epic centerpiece of the album with a very cool intro.  Lyrically it’s based on an old Twilight Zone episode of the same name that deals with a man imprisoned in a church.  Spoiler Alert – he’s Satan and it's probably better for all parties if he's kept locked up. Trust me on this one.

The hard rockin’ “Heavy Metal Heat” is a rollicking cut that celebrates both the Metal fans and the bands out there crushing skulls for a living.  Call it cliché but we can’t get enough of songs that extol the glories of Metal and rocking in general.  “Livin’ Dangerous” is another complete party of a tune that  is sure to get any crowd going.  “Curse Of The Damned” is the first single and is an amazing track that initially reminds of “The Zoo” by the Scorpions and then plunges headlong into even more excellence.  Check out a live version below:

Musically the band is tight as hell and their songwriting is top notch.  Jarvis Leatherby’s vocals are excellent and fit the music like a glove.  At some points, he reminds me of Zeeb Parkes of Witchfinder General – particularly during the chorus of “Satan”- but he’s got his own style and displays it magnificently.  His bass playing is very good as well and it’s mixed upfront as it should be.  Brent Woodward’s guitar playing is great and always serves the song - he plays with subtlety or flash depending on what is required.  The drumming by Dustin Squires is also exemplary and helps tie every song together perfectly.  Night Demon is the very definition of a power trio!

Curse Of The Damned will be available in several formats – CD, Vinyl and digital download.  The Vinyl features a cover of Riot’s “Road Racin’” and the download has that cover as well as a re-recording of the song “The Chalice” from their EP.  Century Media has several pre-order packages available and the band is offering an exclusive vinyl edition and a die hard bundle.  You can order that here.

The Bottom Line:   Curse Of The Damned is all killer no filler, as we old people used to say back in the days of yore.  It’s well worth your coin and I urge all fans of the NWOBHM, Traditional Metal, or just good music in general to go out and buy it.  Don’t suck at life – support Night Demon and their mission to take over the world one listener at a time.  BUY IT!!!!


Sunday, January 4, 2015

You're The Best Around (No, Not You, But Fourteen Albums Are)

Muthas, 2014 is in the books and once again we’ve picked the top fourteen Metal albums of the year. We’ve also picked the best live albums, best reissues, best live shows, and the biggest disappointment of the year. Read on!

The Fourteen Best Albums of 2014

2014 offered up tons of quality Heavy Metal for your listening pleasure and here are the fourteen releases that dominated our turntables, CD players and mp3 players at The Metal Blog of Metal.

Grand Magus – Triumph and Power

The Magus cranks out yet another rock solid album that is loaded with epic tunes.  Drink some mead and crank this up! Read the full review here.

Overkill – White Devil Armory

The Wrecking Crew delivers another stellar Thrash opus. Read the full review here.

Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls

The Priest is back!  An unexpectedly good album that manages to overcome a weird mix.  Check out the full review here.

Orange Goblin – Back From The Abyss

A bludgeoning masterpiece of burly, manly, beardy Metal!  Orange Goblin serves up a disc that may just be best of their career.  If we gave out a best of the year, this may have been it.  So damn good! BUY, BUY, BUY!!!

The Dagger – The Dagger

Sweden strikes again with an album that’s full of excellent 70s style Metal.  Imagine a tasty brew composed mostly of Rainbow and sprinkled liberally with Thin Lizzy, and Judas Priest.  It’s a very impressive album especially considering ¾ of the band is composed of former members of Dismember.  Highly recommended!

Striker – City of Gold

The first of three awesome Canadian releases in our best of 2014. Strikers third album is a smashing combo of Speed Metal and Traditional Metal.  The band they most recall is the godly Vicious Rumors.  All of their albums are excellent and this is as good a place as any to start.  Buy or die! 

Midnight Malice – Proving Grounds

Canadian band number two on our list crushed 2014 with a killer Traditional Metal disc that is hooky as all hell.  They completely delivered the goods after being mostly silent since their 2010 demo Pray For Death.  The only negative is they advertise this as a CD on their website, but it’s actually a CDR.  That’s kind of shitty, but the quality of the music more than offsets this minor disappointment.  If you dig Riot and other good Traditional Metal bands you need to add this to your collection post-haste.

Bullet – Storm of Blades

If you don’t know about Bullet by now here’s their obvious description - take one part Accept and one part AC/DC and mix in a metric shit-ton of fun.   Storm of Blades is a focused and blistering offering, and it's a definite step up from the average Full Pull.  Don’t miss this one.  Killer Anvil-esque album cover too! 

Skull Fist – Chasing The Dream

The last of our Canadian trio, Skull Fist brought out their best album yet in 2014.  They cranked back on Jackie Slaughter’s insane vocals a tiny bit, but kept the excellent songwriting and hooks.  Some complain that his vocals are (possibly?) auto-tuned, but we didn’t because the album kicks all kinds of ass.  Hail Canada! 

Stallion – Rise and Ride

German bangers Stallion’s first full album is a cool combo of Heavy Metal, Speed Metal and a bit of a Sleaze Metal edge.  Fun. Fun. Fun.  They completely embrace the early 80s Heavy Metal aesthetic  of songwriting and fashion.  Tiger stripes and bandanas ahoy!  They even have a song called “Wild Stallions.”  Party on dudes!

Primal Fear – Delivering The Black

Something of a comeback for these Power Metal veterans, with great songs and a real sense of urgency to the writing.  Read the full review here.

Grave Digger – Return of the Reaper

Speaking of Germany, these stalwarts have brought out a killer album that’s NOT a concept album!  Hooray!  It’s a pummeling platter of muscular Power Metal.  Also, the album cover is amazing.  Highly recommended!

Stone Dagger – The Siege of Jerusalem

A little bit of cheating here, but were adding this to our 2014 list because the original 2013 release was very limited to a few cassettes and it didn't get a wide release until 2014.  This two-tracker recalls all of the best of the NWOBHM and is an absolute must buy.  Go get this now. Seriously.  NOW!

Wolf – Devil Seed

Wolf are one of the bands that kicked off the whole NWOTHM movement way back in 1999 and they are still going strong today.  They always seem to get lost in the shuffle, but Devil Seed is another great addition to their legacy of high quality Traditional Metal.  It’s definitely worth your coin if you dig music that doesn’t suck.  

Live – After Death! – The Best Live Albums of 2014

Satan – Trail Of Fire – Live In North American

Documenting NWOBHM legends Satan’s first tour of North America, Trail Of Fire is a very good set of classics that will please any fan of the band or the genre. The band sounds great with Brian Ross's vocals being just as good now as their were way back in the 80s.  The crowds are very excited to hear them which makes this a really special live album.  Pick it up.

Whitesnake – Live In ’84 – Back To The Bone

Here’s a song for ya!! This is a deluxe CD + DVD package that showcases Whitesnake’s killer 1984 lineup at Super-Rock Japan.  Also included are several other live tracks from the same time period as well as Jon Lord’s final show with the band.  This is Whitesnake at their peak with John Sykes before 1987’s “Whitesnake” album.  Just get it.

Born Again – The Best Reissues of 2014

Revered Reverend EP, World Won’t Miss You, Play God, Live EP

Divebomb Records deluxe reissues of the entire Reverend Caroline Records catalog.  These are mandatory for any Metal Church fan or fans of Power Thrash in general.  Get ‘em before their gone.

Picture – Picture 1, Heavy Metal Ears, Diamond Dreamer, Eternal Dark

Divebomb Records strikes again with four albums from the Netherlands own Picture!  Superb Traditional Heavy Metal that will please fans of 70s and early 80s Judas Priest.  Pitch those shitty Greek bootlegs and pick these deluxe editions up.  Great stuff!

S.A. Slayer – Prepare To Die, Go For The Throat

Finally!  A legit 2 on 1 reissue of the legendary “other Slayer” from San Antonio, Texas.  This is from the excellent Polish label Skol Records and is very nicely done – just like all of their reissues.  Buy!

Satan’s Host – Metal From Hell, Midnight Wind

It’s another excellent, finally legit reissue from the good folks at Skol Records. Get this and see where it all began for Leviathan Thisiren and company way back in 1986.  By the hands of the devil indeed!

Black Conventicles – The Best Concerts of 2014

Metal Church – March 7th, The Rex Theater, Pittsburgh, PA

A great set of classics and very little new material from Metal Church on a Friday night in the Steel City.  They were filming a concert video so we actually got to hear “Start The Fire” and “Ton of Bricks” twice back to back!  Very cool.  Unfortunately, this proved to be the last tour with Ronny Munroe, as he left the band shortly thereafter.  Here’s hoping they can continue with another vocalist before they lose the momentum built up from their return. 

Black Label Society/Down – May 15th, Stage A.E., Pittsburgh, PA

It was nice to see BLS, but the real attraction was finally getting to see Down and Phil Anselmo.  Phil and the boys belted out a great set of Down classics and left us wanting more.  This is the fourth or fifth time that we’ve seen BLS and Zakk always delivers his guitar hero antics with style and flash.  A fun time was had by all.

Primal Fear – May 24th, The Altar Bar, Pittsburgh, PA

It was quite unexpected when Primal Fear announced a United States tour and that it would be hitting Pittsburgh.  Seeing as this was their second-to-last show in the States, their performance was excellent and they band was tight as hell.  They delivered song after song of top-notch German Power Metal to the faithful that ventured out that night.  It was a damn good set that showcased a band thats far from running in the dust.  Hailz!

King Diamond – October 19th, Stage A.E., Pittsburgh, PA

It was a definite treat seeing the revitalized King Diamond and his theatrical stage show of evil awesomeness right before Halloween!  It was pure chance that had him book a show here in the Steel City, and everyone there was glad to see him back in action.  Here’s hoping that more tours and albums follow.  A new Mercyful Fate album and tour would be great too!

Message In Blood – The Best Album Cover of 2014

Grave Digger – Return of the Reaper

Now that’s an awesome cover!  The Grim Reaper, a graveyard, fire, a casket, and ravens all presented as if they are coming right at you as they bust out of the graveyard.  Sweet! Looks exceptionally good on vinyl.

The System Has Failed – The Biggest Disappointments of 2014

Sebastian Bach – Give ‘Em Hell

We keep waiting for Baz to unleash a worthy follow up to the smoking Angel Down and he’s never gotten close.  The album sounds uninspired and his vocals are weirdly strained on much of the material.  WTF?  Also, the album cover is an abomination. Boo!!!!  Get Metal Mike Chlasciak back and write some better material.  We'll be waiting. 

Accept – Blind Fury

It’s a pile of meh.  Full review here.

The 124th Annual The Metal Blog of Metal 
Comeback Of The Year Award

Chromium Dioxide Magazine

If you don’t read this Canadian Metal ‘zine I pity your shallow, colorless existence.  It’s packed full of hilarity, Metal, VHS bargain bin treasures, and everything else the 1990 version of me thought was great. Main men Philthy Chromium and Dave Slimer hadn’t been able to put out an issue since 2011 due to various fires, health scares, and other shittiness, but now they are back for the attack!  Buy it here and know what it is to live life to the fullest as a man should do.  Hoist a midnight champagne with me in celebration!  Cheers! 


Have a great 2015 and as always, MAKE MINE METAL!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

(Not that) Restless and Fairly Mild

Accept – Blind Rage

Nuclear Blast Records – 2014

Muthas, the Teutonic Terrors Accept are back with their third album since their reformation in 2009 – Blind Rage. The previous two albums with Mark Tornillo were both great slabs of excellent traditional Metal that had all the hallmarks that fans expect of Accept.  How does this new album stack up agaist the standards set by Blood of the Nations and Stalingrad

Unfortunately, Blind Rage is something of a disappointment.  Interviews with the band made it sound like this album would be very heavy and aggressive – it’s titled Blind Rage after all, and the album starts off quite well with the kickass “Stampede” and the celebration of the history of Metal that is “Dying Breed.” 

It’s then that the album comes to a screeching halt with “Dark Side of My Heart.”  This track starts out with a riff borrowed from “Up To The Limit” (which is awesome) but then slides into a melancholy bore.  WTF?  This is followed by a succession of underwhelming songs – “Fall of the Empire,” “Trail of Tears,” and “Wanna Be Free.”  At this point, the listener wants to be free of boredom by listening to something else.   

Thankfully, the pace, and the song quality, pick up with “200 Years” and “Bloodbath Mastermind.”  Both cuts are very good and are up to the standard set by the other Tornillo helmed albums, but the next two songs - “The Curse” and “From The Ashes We Rise” - are plodding and just as melancholy as most of the rest of the album.  The last track, “Final Journey,” does finish off the album with a bang and is one of the best tracks on the disc.

I know the band had more time to write and record this album, and I think this lack of urgency is reflected in the overall tone of the album.  It’s a weird, gloomy album that both musically and lyrically feels depressing.  A couple of speedier tunes in the vein of “Pandemic” or “Beat The Bastards” would have really helped to propel this album and break up the slower material. 

Does anyone really want to hear several slow songs bemoaning the fate of the world and the trite pablum of “Wanna Be Free”?  I know I don’t.  This is Metal for the love of God!  Strap it on and start kicking some ass!  Sheesh.


The Bottom Line: Accept’s new album is a something of a disappointment and is definitely the least of the Tornillo trilogy.  Not enough songs with that killer Accept viciousness help to drag Blind Rage down to the merely ordinary.  Accept fans will find some good tracks, but this album isn’t essential by any means.  At least the deluxe edition comes with a great live DVD – so we’ve got that going for us.  Which is nice.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Metal Is Forever!

Primal Fear – Delivering The Black

Frontiers Records – 2014

Muthas, the ever prolific Primal Fear has unleashed their tenth studio album in just sixteen years and it’s sehr gut!  Delivering The Black features a bumper crop of memorable, anthemic cuts that herald a great return to form.  The band hasn't had any terrible albums, but their material has become a bit formulaic and forgettable in the past several years.  Thankfully, the new album proves that Primal Fear can still (ahem) deliver the goods.      

The album kicks off with “King For A Day” and it’s immediately clear that Primal Fear has stepped up their game on the new record.  The song is speedy, beefy Power Metal that they have specialized in since their debut way back in 1998.  Check out the video for “King For A Day” below for confirmation:

There are many other excellent songs such as the absolutely killer and epic “When Death Comes Knocking,” the amped-up speedball “Rebel Faction” and the anthemic, mid-paced grinder “Alive & On Fire.”  Frankly, there are virtually no songs on the album that aren't excellent. Check out the video for “When Death Comes Knocking” below:

The centerpiece of the album is the amazing and emotional “One Night In December.”  This song will certainly rank among the best tracks in their catalog. I was lucky enough to see the band live on the tour for this album and this song went over great.  The crowd absolutely ate it up and didn't notice that the track was over nine minutes long.  
As an aside, this record is a great example of how important sequencing is when it comes to the flow of an album.  Delivering The Black offers up two speedy tracks, then a mid-paced song, followed by three more fast cuts and then they hit you with the nine minute epic.  This is how you do it people!  Grab the listener’s attention right off the bat and then take them on a journey.  If you don’t hook a listener early on, you are probably never going to get them back.  I know I harp on sequencing, but so many albums are ruined by the lack of flow in the modern day. Vinyl at least forced bands to think about how to place tracks for maximum impact, and that’s sorely missing in our benighted digital age. 

The only real clunker on the album is the ballad “Born With a Broken Heart.”  It’s not terrible, but feels like a perfunctory bit of filler. Another minor issue is the song title “Inseminoid” which is cringe-inducing and reminds me of a couple of Roger Corman movies. Egads! I’ll just chalk it up to English being a second language for the band.  The song itself is good though, so that will help you not focus on the absurd song title. 

As mentioned previously, I had the good fortune to see Primal Fear live and the band ripped the roof off the venue.  They sounded great live and gave it their all, even for the paltry crowd of 100 or so that turned out to see them.  They played four songs from the new album and they slotted in great with such staples as “Running In The Dust,” “Chainbreaker” and “Nuclear Fire.”  Go see them if you get the chance.  Ralf approves of this sentiment:

Thumbs Up Pittsburgh!

The Bottom Line:

Primal Fear have delivered a great slab of Power Metal that will satisfy any Metal fan.  Go out and grab it and don't fear the Inseminoid! (Unless you happen to be in a Roger Corman film.)  

As always, MAKE MINE METAL!   

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Heart Clad In Iron, Soul Clad In Steel

Grand Magus – Triumph and Power

Nuclear Blast Records – 2014

Muthas, Grand Magus has returned with their seventh album just a scant 20 months after the release of their last LP.  However, the band has decided to head down the path that leads to the mead hall of heroic epicness, rather than the more hard-rockin’ barroom of their previous album The HuntTriumph and Power is packed with loads of mid-paced, epic tunes that will get your head banging without becoming boring.  Main man JB wasn’t kidding in interviews when he said that this album would have been a huge seller in 1983.  This is 100% pure Scandinavian glory metal from the days of yore! If you were hoping that they’d return to their earlier Doom Metal sound, you will be sorely disappointed.   

The album does have several longer songs and it does take a bit of listening to get into some of them.  Unfortunately this is certainly true of the lead cut, “On Hooves of Gold.” This track seems a bit plodding upon the first listen, and a couple of speedier cuts up front would certainly help with the flow of the album.  However, there are several great mid-paced songs such as the amazing “The Hammer Will Bite” and the superb title track.  Check out the lyric video for “Triumph and Power” for a bit of Viking epicness:

The speedier cuts really shine on this album - “Dominator,” “The Naked and the Dead” and “Holmgang” in particular are good - but the absolute highlight of the album is “Steel vs. Steel.” Of course Grand Magus has no trouble cranking out a crushing song about Elric of Melnibone and his sword Stormbringer!  This song kicks ass with a memorable chorus and is sure to be a concert staple for Grand Magus in the years to come.  

 The lyrical theme of the rest of the tracks deal with tales of Vikings, battles, warriors, Valhalla, Frost Giants and Thor.  These are all worthy topics that certainly match the epic tone of the LP, and would impress even the mighty Heavy Load.  The cover art reflects these themes and is, quite simply, exceptional. It’s easily the best they’ve ever had on one of their albums.  It would make a great subject for a shirt, poster and backpatch.  In fact, the vinyl comes with just such a poster!


The Bottom Line:  Triumph and Power is an excellent album that is loaded with rock-solid traditional Metal.  It might take a bit to get in to the album, but it’s worth your time and effort.  Pick it up and get the vinyl for that kick-ass artwork!


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Down To The Bone

Overkill – White Devil Armory

EOne – 2014

Muthas, guess who’s back with another excellent thrash album?  Megadeth? Metallica? Anthrax?  Of course not. It’s Overkill!  At this point, one begins to wonder where the Overkill tribute albums and documentaries are because this band is so damn reliable.  They never falter and are consistently excellent while their peers wallow is various failed experiments with “mature song writing” or some other bullshit.  How the hell do they keep doing this and why aren't they lauded?  I have no idea but this album will only further burnish their sterling reputation.

White Devil Armory is another disc packed with stone cold classic songs.  Is it better than The Electric Age or Ironbound?  Maybe, but it’s at the very least as good as those modern classics.  You headbangers will delight in smashing tracks like “Down To the Bone,” “Bitter Pill,” “Where There’s Smoke,” and “Freedom Rings.” The pit will really get moving to the crushing “Pig.” Check out the video for "Bitter Pill" below:

There’s a limited edition digipak that contains two bonus tracks – “The Fight Song” and “Miss Misery.”  The first track recalls the song “Old School” from Relixiv and would be a great sing-along cut for live shows.  “Miss Misery” is a Nazereth cover and it features a vocal duet with Mark Tornillo of Accept!  It’s another great song by a band that always delivers the goods when it comes to cover tunes.

The Bottom Line:

Frankly, reviewing Overkill albums is a bit boring because it’s difficult to keep coming up with reviews that don’t all sound the same.  The album is great, just like the rest of their catalog.  Go out and get the limited edition and go see them live.  This is definitely a band that we should all be supporting.  They are Metal down to the bone!

As always, MAKE MINE METAL! 

Welcome To My World Of Steel

Judas Priest - Redeemer of Souls

Epic Records – 2014

Muthas, the Priest is back! It’s been six long years since the disappointing, turgid mess that was Nostradamus.  In the interim founding member K.K. Downing retired and was replaced by Richie Faulkner. With the loss of one third of the Halford/Tipton/Downing triumvirate would it be possible for Redeemer of Souls to live up to the rest of the Judas Priest catalog?  Believe it or not, it actually does.  This is a damn fine return to form for the band that personifies Heavy Metal. 

Sadly, it takes several listens to get into Redeemer of Souls because of a couple of a few odd choices that the band has made.  Firstly, the mix on this album is garbage.  The guitars are buried in the mix and Halford’s vocals are pushed way up front.  This robs many of the cuts of power and makes them a bit inaccessible upon the first few listens.  Secondly, the sequencing of the album is poor because the first several tracks are nowhere near the best and lack the immediate hooky-ness that can really kick-start an album.  A remix and a re-sequencing would do wonders for Redeemer of Souls. Finally, this is a very long album with the standard version having 13 tracks and the deluxe edition featuring a bonus disc with an additional five songs.  Eighteen tracks is essentially two albums worth of material and is a huge amount of music to digest in a single sitting.

Those criticisms aside, this is probably the best album Priest has released since Painkiller.  Once you get past the okay “Dragonaught” and the ho-hum title track, the album really kicks into gear with “Halls of Valhalla” which should have been the album opener and first single.  “Sword of Damocles,” ”Battle Cry,” and “Metalizer,” are all excellent, speedy cuts. “March of the Damned” is the second single while having a modern sound is a total earworm.  I defy anyone not to get into the amazing riff that is all over this track. “Hell & Back” sounds like it could have been from 1978 and “Cold Blooded” could have been on Screaming For VengeanceThis album is packed with quality songs throughout. Unfortunately, the album ends with the “Beginning of the End” which is a crap ballad and it should have been left off the album.

The bonus disc features five tracks, four of which are equal to, or better than, the material on the standard album. “Snakebite” is a catchy, sassy, commercial track that recalls the British Steel era.  “Tears of Blood” is a fantastic, emotional song that builds to a great ending, and is the best track of all of the eighteen cuts!  This should have been the centerpiece of the standard album.  “Creatures” is a classic Priest “monster” song like “Nightcrawler” and is damn good.  “Bring It On” is decent and sounds like it was written in the late 70s/early 80s.  Unfortunately, “Never Forget” ends the bonus disc - it’s a horrid, treacly ballad.  Vomitous.

The Bottom Line:

The mighty Judas Priest has cranked out an excellent album that is overstuffed with metallic goodness.  The Deluxe Edition is worth the coin, and will provide you with hours of quality listens.  So get out there and get it if you haven’t already.